Regularly backing up your hard disk is vital if you want to avoid spending hours re-installing your operating system, applications and drivers, not to mention recreating your data. Although you can make do with a stack of floppies and Windows’ built-in backup utility for a few vital data files, backing up your entire hard disk this way is out of the question. External disk drives are more appropriate, but for high volumes of data, tape is more suitable.
This is where products like Seagate’s TapeStor Travan 20GB USB come in. A compact and well built external device, it attaches to any PC or notebook fitted with a USB interface and can back up as much as 20GB of data on a single Travan TR-5 tape. The tapes cost around £25 + VAT. It’s worth noting, however, that in order to achieve this maximum capacity your data must be compressible by a factor of 2:1 on average, as the native capacity of TR-5 tapes is just 10GB.
Installing the TapeStor is a very simple and quick process, and is covered reasonably well in the brief printed installation guide supplied with the drive. The first step is to install either of the two backup packages provided; Veritas Backup Exec Desktop or Dantz Retrospect Express. Once this is done and your system has been re-booted, you can then just plug the TapeStor into your PC via the supplied USB cable, and power the unit up using its compact external power supply. All being well, Windows will detect the newly installed hardware and ask for the TapeStor driver CD to be inserted. Once the required files have been copied to your system, the drive will then be ready for use.
For the most part, both Dantz Retrospect Express and Veritas Backup Exec Desktop offer a very similar range of features and facilities. Both automatically compress your data during the backup process and both allow you to backup or restore either all or a user definable subset of your data. Both also perform equally well with the TapeStor drive; in our tests both packages were able to backup at speeds of around 1MB/sec.
In fact the only real differences between the packages are their user interfaces and the way they manage your data – Restrospect Express being slightly more powerful in this respect – so it may well be worth installing and testing both backup packages for a while until you can make a final decision on which best suits you.
Unfortunately, because USB drivers for DOS are unavailable, it is necessary to manually re-install Windows on your PC before you can use either package to restore data should your hard disk ever become completely corrupted. This is a serious drawback, but one that the TapeStor shares with all USB-based backup devices.
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